Friday, November 8, 2013

Understanding Fasting and Prayer

We are about to enter into a time of 21 days of prayer and fasting.  I have been reading on Facebook that some of you have never fasted before, so I wanted to take a moment and try and explain the simplicity of fasting and why a person would do such a thing.  I think it is most important that you understand why a person would fast and then understand how you fast.  

Fasting is all about humbling your soul before The Lord.  Prayer in itself is an act of humility as we read in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."  God is looking for those that humble and he answers the prayer of the humble.  Let me give you an example.  When I got up this morning my dog was ready to go outside. So we did.  As I was making coffee and watching the news and doing what I do, Zach (my dog) was freaking out because I had not fed him yet.  He didn't care about me or what I needed to do he was just concerned with filling his stomach.  This is the way we are with God sometimes.  We get so self-consumed with our own needs that we forget there are more important things going on around us.  When a person fasts he or she is humbled by caring more about the topic of the fast than filling his or her own belly.  Notice the humility in this Psalm of David, "But as for me, when they were sick, My clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting..." (Psalm 35:13).  

Fasting in the scripture is always about one thing: food.  I hear today of people fasting from all kinds of things (social media, chocolate, gaming, etc.), but the most effective fast is to remove a basic need of life which is food.  There is no set time for the fast.  People fast every night as they sleep which is the reason we "BREAK-FAST" in the morning.  People fast for one day, three day, seven day, or two week fasts.  There are some references of forty day fasts in the bible but this is not common practice.  

Jesus warned about fasting for the wrong reasons in Mathew 6:1-18.  The Pharisees were fasting in front of others to show how "spiritual" they were which is very arrogant and the complete opposite of humble.  Remember, the goal of fasting is humility before The Lord.  We are commanded not be be like the Pharisees.  

When we call for 21 days of Fasting and Prayer, we are not expecting anyone to fast for the entire 21 days but that you pick some days throughout the time frame in which you are fasting.  We want someone fasting the entire time before The Lord.  May God grant you the requests that you seek as you humble yourself before The Lord through the fast.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Best Day at New Season Church

Last week as we were preparing for the service on Sunday, I received a copy of Pastor Steve's sermon notes.  I get a sneak peak along with the rest of the staff so that we can prepare all of our pieces that fit into the Sunday morning experience.  I knew after I read it that this was going to be one for the history books. We started a new series entitled "Dark Horse Rises" which is a sequel to last year's series on I Samuel.

On Friday night we had a special vision night for the volunteers at New Season and there was such a sweet spirit in the room I could tell the people were preparing there hearts for the message and service on Sunday. There has been tons of spiritual warfare around NSC over the summer, but you wouldn't have none it this weekend.  I woke up this morning and hit my knees in preparation for what God was going to bring us.  I prayed for Pastor Steve that the Lord would just fill him up with all the words and thoughts that I saw on the paper notes.  I felt in complete agreement that God was going to show up in the Worship experience and knock our socks off.   All the staff had been at the church on Saturday cleaning up from the volunteer night and putting the last touches on the stage and classrooms for the kids, so all was ready.

The 8:50 service went a bit long because we had an issue with Steve's count down clock, and at the end of the service I walked out into the hall and there was a sea of people waiting to come into the 10:00 Worship experience.  I was overwhelmed.  They were everywhere.  The kids classes were full.  The auditorium was full.  The parking lot was full.  And I was full up!!

The worship band began the worship set and it was amazing.  I was singing in the midst of God's people with tears in my eyes and a song in my heart.  We sang together, we cried together, we worshiped together.  It was beautiful.  Then Pastor Steve preached the message I had been meditating on.  and it touched everyone in the room.  As he gave the invitation for people to respond to the message, I knew we were going to have a big response.  And sure enough, we had 12 people come forward and receive Christ as their Lord and Savior.  They passed from death to live right before my eyes.  I can't get over it.  I don't want to get over it.  I love it.  If you are dealing with strongholds in your life make sure you listen to the sermon online:

After church I came home rejoicing as I took my normal 20 minute cat nap in my chair and then went to the pool with the family.  We had a great time socking in the sun and talking about God's grace. I met one of the worship leaders at Burnt Hickory Baptist in the pool and we swapped stories of God grace and call on our lives.

It is amazing the way God has the ability to turn something that seems so dark around in a few days or even a few hours.  It makes me know that he has not left us or forsaken us.  He is very much at the helm of the lives of his dear children.  I hope your Sunday was as good as mine.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The End of Summer

Summer is coming to a close and we have barley been in the 90's here in Atlanta.  I'm not quite used to that. I'm more used to 100+ on the thermometer.  So life is good in that since.  Kim and I have been enjoying the porch on the front of our house and the decks in the back.  It's been so nice to live around my family for the first time since I was 18.  I feel like I have missed out on so much.  It's the little things that you don't think about like sitting down for a Easter meal or celebrating my nephew's birthday.  I just think this is how it is supposed to be.

My brother and I worked on my dad's boat this morning and we are just about ready to put it in the water.  We had to change the motor to a new hull that my Dad had purchased.  Even that was enjoyable because it was with my family.

One thing I've learned about the people in Georgia, they are all residents of Florida in the Summer time.  I don't think I've ever seen such a migration on people.  Even I find myself renting a condo and staying for a week, but I go in the off Season in September.  It's not near as crowded and the weather is perfect that time of year.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

VBS in Haiti

When I lived in Borger, it was common for dust bowls and dirty rain, but I must say Borger ain't got nothing on Haiti.  This is one of the dirtiest places to which I have ever been.  There is so much dust here there is no way to keep anything clean.  

One of the main highlights of the trip for me was the VBS.  This was going to be the time that we got to share the gospel and see some kids come to Christ. We had everything planned out, had our parts down, and skits practiced.  We were doing VBS for the school kids and it was test day today.  There were about 50 kids that came to school and to our VBS.  One of the big treats for VBS is that the kids get peanut butter sandwiches.  This is a huge treat because peanut butter is so expensive over here.  The kids ranged from 5 years to 14 years old.  This is a huge gap for VBS and they were all together.  Any time you take a discovery trip (going to a place for the first time) you basically learn what not to do.  It is hard if not impossible to come into a new culture and hit a home run right off the bat.  We defiantly learned some lessons today.   The program went off just like we planned it, but we will do it completely different next time.  Unbeknownst to us, this was the kids 3rd VBS in a short amount of time.  I felt like and they acted like they were going through the motions to get to the peanut butter.  Even if this was the case the gospel message did go out.  I think next time for an effective response we need more days to really drive home the concepts of the gospel message.  The kids were suffering from information overload and some of them just checked out.  I don't blame them for that, it was just to much to fast.  We did have a good debriefing meeting in which some planning was noted for the next one.

It is funny how God works.  I was so set on this VBS being the reason for the whole trip, but that wasn't God's agenda at all.  I always look for the supernatural events on the trip.  The ones that make you say, "Ah, That's why we came.  The supernatural event this week has been watching Karlata break through to these girls in the orphanage in a way that has amazed even the directors.  The ministry that she has started with these girls will last long after this trip is over and Karlata's return has already been offered.  Her work with these girls will effect and change each and every one of their lives.  This is a huge success and blessing to me and most defiantly makes the trip worth it.  Every day Karlata as more sessions with the girls so please pray that God would give her strength and wisdom as she ministers to the House of Hope girls.  One of the girls told her today.  If you made and you are O.K. I think I can make it too.  If that's not hope I don't know what is.  God be praised. 

At the same time the team is growing closer together everyday and finding new paths to travel in our own walk with Christ.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Sunday in Haiti

I've attended many church services all over the world and never get tired of seeing the different ways that people praise and worship The Lord.  I had a thought today that I'm still chewing on.  All the different ways of praising The Lord are all being driven by the Holy Spirit.  If he didn't like it he would reveal it to and through is people in all these different countries.  But if we know anything about God we know that he likes diversity, wether it be trees, birds or people he made all different kinds and he made all different kinds of worship.  So here's the cool thing about that thought.  What an awesome site when we are gathered around the throne and the africans are praising in their dance and the Haitians are waving their hands back and forth, and the American are giving the raised fist that God will be sitting on the throne saying, "Yea, now that the way I like it!"  It was a good day a Church today.  I did whoever miss the time of invitation; but I will leave that conversation for another blog. 

After Church we took a walk and surveyed the land to which Paul and Kate are ministering.  That has been the most eye opening thing we have done yet.  If you have been with me on missions trips before you know how I love to get out and meet the people.  I have learned that most people in the world are not radical or even mean for that matter.  They are just trying to make it another day, providing for their family.  I would give a smile and say "good afternoon" in Creole and their faces would like up as they offered me a blessing of peace.  Haiti in general looks like a war zone with downed buildings, tent cities, and homeless everywhere.  Yet, they would still smile and laugh and play in the midst of all their struggle.  it changes me more and more every time I come.    

We spend some time working on the skit for VBS tomorrow (please don't forget to pray).  Before dinner Karlota had been meeting with some of the girls one-on-one.  As she was giving her findings it finally hit me how much trauma the girls have gone through.  It is hard to see when they are so happy to see you and smiling all the time but the truth is they are hurting and emotionally distressed to say the least.  The girls have been really opening up to her and she has been making a huge difference in their lives.  There is no way this can be her last trip.  She must come back and continue to work with these girls.  Pray that God would provide a way for her to return as soon as possible.  I believe after today that Karlota is the reason we came on this trip.

The Meaning of Connect

No matter what book I pick up, read, or hear right now always has to do with relationships.  The truth of the matter is that all of our lives are run on the basis of relationships.  We all desire them.  We all need them.  But relationship seem to be there very thing that we are not any good at keeping.  We struggle to find the right balance of how much to give away and how much to hold close to the chest.  Should I be my real self or just play a role that everyone wants me to play.  The truth is relationships are not that hard to have if you are willing to be honest and trust worthy. 

On the agenda for today was swimming with the girls from the house of hope.  You should have seen us walking 3 block hike to the hotel where we were going to swim for the day.  There was about 25 of us and everyone wanted to know what we were all doing walking down the back streets of Haiti.  When we got to the pool all the girls jumped right in and team was close behind.  This is a treat for the girls and not something that they do often or together.  It was a blast for everyone.

The most important thing I noticed was the difference in the girls and the team when we got back to the orphanage.  You would have thought that we had know each other forever.  The girls were wanting  me to color and jump rope with them.  They wanted to help us as we were cleaning up and taking out the trash.  (You have to remember some of them are less than 5 years old and were abused or abandoned.  This is a big deal.)  The truth is they want relationships too.  Someone they can trust and look up to.  Someone that will hold them when they hurt themselves and need a hand.  

At dinner one of the workers came and got Paul and Kate and said that one of the girls had fallen and then they called for Mittie, the nurse!  This wasn't sounding good.  So we postponed dinner to find that one of the girls had rolled out of bed and hit her head and was bleeding like crazy.  After Mittie got her cleaned up we realized it was just a scrape with a lot of blood.  But you would have thought that Mittie and that little girl spoke the same language as she comforted her and told her she was going to be alright.  It was a beautiful sight to say the least.  

When you understand that God is a relational god, it helps to understand the need we all have for strong relationships.  Open up to someone today and let that relationship go a little deeper and you will see the joys of sharing life with others.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Service for the Servants

Last night we set a call time for breakfast at 7:30 am.  If you've been on a missions trip with me before you know that we are not going to be sleeping around all day.  You can do that on your vacation.  Mission work is different, you are usually going to help someone with the mission that God has placed on his or her heart.  It is important to them.  It matters.  As I was rounding everyone up about 7:45, Charlie began making pancakes, the problem was we didn't get the kind that you just add water.  We had the kind that required milk (which we didn't have) and eggs (which we didn't have).  So, we found some powdered milk and just went without the eggs and believe it or not, I couldn't even taste the difference.  They were good or I was just that hungry, but either way, we worked it out. 

Then it was time to bless the orphanage with some good old fashioned hard work.  We took on the project of painting the kitchen for the orphanage.  And the team did great.  We had it knocked out before lunch and was able to play with the girls and watch them paint rocks in the afternoon.  Some had talent and some had paint all over them but all had a good time. 

I had the opportunity to go to the store today to buy some new mops for the orphanage and the traffic was crazy.  No order only means one thing: Chaos!! As I was driving with Paul, the American that runs the orphanage, he was sharing with me how excited he was for the devotion times because he could tell that our team was hear for others and not for ourselves.  I don't believe I could have received a better compliment about our team.

After practicing our skit for Monday's VBS we got ready or dinner and watch the girls play hide and go seek in the court yard.  I was blessed to know that these girls get to experience some of the pleasures of childhood that most other Haitian girls don't get to enjoy.

My First Trip to Haiti

As I went to bed last night at 12:00 am. I knew it was going to be a rough day having to get back up at 4:15 am.  When I got to the Church a little after 5:00 the team was there and ready waiting in the limo that would take us to the airport.  I'm still not quite sure how that happened but off we go.  Riding in stile and trying to stay awake. I did however, have everyone hold up their passport so I could see it before we left.  We got to the airport with not much said (the girls were sleeping) and we headed off to our gate.

It's amazing to me that we, as americans, can get on a plane and travel around the world the way we do.  This though lead me on a mental journey for the rest of the day.  Scriptures were coming to my mind about the great commission and our ability to actually fulfill it, and to who much is given much is required.  The end of that thought provoking journey was this: when we leave Haiti will be have left a tangible gospel or just felt good about the fact that we were willing to go.  

As we got to Haiti is was the same scene that have seen many times, people begging to help you with your bags for a small tip, crazy traffic, bumpy streets with no order, riding in the back of a compact truck with all the luggage.  The complex was not quite what I expected.  I was expecting an american oasis in the middle of Haiti but not so.  It is very much under construction and the girls and one litttle boy are the gems of it all.

We had dinner and sat on the roof top sharing our first impressions of the place and God was in our midst.  it was a blessing to see how God works all over the world.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Living by Faith

The thing that sets Christianity apart from every other belief system in the world is the element of Faith. Because we have a God who is all knowing, and the master of all he has created; we know that we can trust him to watch out for his children and do what is best for us. We trust God! Not that we trust in God, but that we trust God. We trust Him with our lives, our families, our finances, and our future. We pray to him for health and prosperity and we know he hears our prayers. This is what makes a strong Christian.

You see Christians all the time not living by faith and they are miserable and worldly. It's hard to see any testimony of Christianity in their lives because our testimony is so wrapped up in our faith.

Yesterday was a huge day of faith for me. My father, Brian Sizemore,had to go through open heart surgery. A surgery I didn't think he would make it through. There were people all over this country praying for my father asking God to pull him through the surgery. Dad had a staff infection that attacked his heart and had attached itself to the one of the valves in his heart. Untreated, the infection would destroy his heart. The doctors were going in to open his heart and cut out the infected valve and replace it with a new mechanical one. This would mean more pills and treatments to watch and maintain this artificial part in Brian's heart.

As the doctors began the surgery they noticed that the infection wasn't on the valve at all but on the wall right next to the valve. They were able to cut out the infection and leave the valve in tact. This was a major blessing that I don't believe anyone was praying for. But God knew what Dad needed. That's why we trust him. We are praying that God would save Brian's life for his glory and ministry in the future, so we are looking for great things. This is the joy of living by faith. What we don't know God knows. We can trust him.

Then last night I had a meeting with a family that had been struggling and before the night was over the man received Christ as his Savior with tears in his eyes. Now he trusts The Lord and will begin to live by faith like the rest of us.

How about You? Do you live by faith? Do people know that you trust in God for all the areas of your life?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How did Jesus draw a Crowd

On my way in to work this morning I was thinking of all the marketing aspects of the ministry I have been learning since I moved to Atlanta. And it just got me thinking the way in which Jesus would draw a crowd. From the scriptures we know that he had a huge following every where he went. I'm sure the greatest advertisement he had was word of mouth, but I don't believe that is what cause the great crowds to form.

When Jesus was twelve, we have the first glimpse into his ministry and see all the elders of the Synagog gathered around him. They were gathered because of the great wisdom and authority in which He spoke. I believe this was the draw of his entire ministry. He spoke with wisdom and authority.

I believe this is still very true today. Word gets around when your words hold wisdom and authority. I don't know of any big named preacher that didn't get the reputation he has without starting with words of wisdom and authority that actually changed the lives of the listeners. This is the key to building a strong ministry. Wisdom is the key element for drawing a crowd. I wonder what would happen if pastors spent as much time in their study getting words of wisdom and authority as they did worrying about the next graphic for the next series. I believe the crowd would be drawn to the same wisdom of Christ. Preach the Word!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gearing Up for Easter

When I was growing up Easter was all about getting matching outfits with my brothers and hoping there was an Easter Egg hunt at Church and maybe even finding a plastic egg with money inside. Growing up in Church I remember all the different plays and cantatas the Church would do as we celebrated Easter.

Easter hasn't changed in the last 2000 years or so in the fact that it is still the biggest day of the year for the Body of Christ to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord an Savior. It is crazy to fathom that there was a man that died, laid in a tomb for 3 days, and then got up and walked out! This is unbelievable! This in incredible! This is a miracle! There were over 500 witnesses that saw the resurrected Christ during the 40 days he walked around after the resurrection. Can you imagine the overwhelming testimony in a court room today if 500 witnesses testified to an event. We wouldn't even question it.

So many people say they just can't have this blind faith of Christianity, and I say our faith is based on the facts recorded in the Bible by eye witnesses. You would be silly not to believe the overwhelming evidence that Jesus from Nazareth rose from the dead just as he predicted he would.

If Jesus, through the power of God, can be raised from the dead, and has the power over death; it would be wise to trust Him for not only the afterlife but the things in this life. Jesus didn't rise from the dead for himself. He is, was, and for will be God. He rose from the dead to illustrate to you that he has the power over death, and can raise you from the dead as well. He also gave us an example of that when he raised Lazarus from the dead. This is the eternal life that he promises to all those that trust, believe, and receive Him. Easter is coming!!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Team Work Gets It Done

As I think back over my time as a minister of the gospel, it has become so evident to me that people are looking for a friend, then a leader, and finally a preacher. I still remember that Monday morning in my little office of that little church in a little town when God asked me the biggest question of my life. "Do you want to be a professional Pastor or do you want to be a minister to my people. To become a Minster I would have to get dirty. People are messy! Their lives are messy! But, in a split second I saw my Lord on my cross getting dirty because of my mess and I had to join Him in the messiness of others.

The blessing is that through all of that mess you form life long friendships that you would die for. People and Families are changed forever through the power of the gospel; and I have gained war buddies that will be with me through thick and thin. If your not willing to war with others, you wont have the close relationship of others.

This is what has happened over the last few months with my new friends at New Season Church. We are celebrating 5 years of ministry which I believe has been the "priming of the pump" for some awesome things to come. In the last six months I have had to lean on my brothers as they leaned back on me and we made it through. There is going to be a huge work force today up at East Paulding High School and some will say that we need to get the stage up, others will say that we need to put the chairs out, still others will be frustrated with our sound equipment, but we will be doing it together. And at the end of the day we will be a closer family then when we started. That gets me excited about the day and the years to come.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Releasing the Pressure Valve

On just about any type of system that is under pressure there is a pressure relief valve. These valves are engineered so that when the pressure in the system gets to the point of hurting the system it will open and relieve that pressure. I think people are much the same way. We live in systems that are under pressure all the time. We have work deadlines, school deadlines, pressure to perform well as a parent, and or spouse. There is pressure in friendships and relationships. All of which can build up in a person until he or she is ready to just explode. It is at these times in your life you need a relief valve. Some way to relieve the stress and pressure in your life or you will explode and destroy the very system you've been trying to build.

When I first moved to Atlanta I was under tons of pressure from the day we pulled up in my mother's driveway. I have to find a job. Where are we going to live? How long will we be living with my parents? And I won't even get into the "what if" scenarios that were going through my head. When I did find the job that God wanted me to have it even got worse. My nature is to prove myself and there is much to do all the time. So I know a little something about stressful situations.

I would like to offer a few tips on dealing with the pressure and see if I can't install a relief valve or two.

  1. Know your limitations. Relief valves are always put in understand what the limitations of the system are. Most of the time we get into pressure situations because we have gotten in over our heads and we have past our true limitations or at least our comfort levels. Don't do more than what God is asking you to do no matter who else is asking. It is completely acceptable to say, "I don't know that." or "I'm not very good at this or that." When you are honest with yourself it allows others to be honest with you and not put undo pressure because you said you could handle it.
  2. Live within your means. The biggest pressure that people get under is finacial pressure. Finacial pressure is the leading cause of divorce and even causes some to commit suicide. Pressure is always caused by outside sources. For example, you would never have finacial pressure if the bill collectors never called, but they do and they will. So, by living within your means you don't need to worry about the bills.
  3. Trust in The Lord. When you are accomplishing the will of The Lord, He has promised that he will provide all that you need to finish the task at hand. God never promised that he would fund or support all the other stuff we have going on in our lives. Focus on the Kingdom of God and some of the other pressures will simply go away. Even in Church we have to be careful about the "Martha syndrome." Thinking that business is godliness. I believe it is just the opposite busyness has always been a strategy of the devil to keep you from doing the most important things in life. The Lord instructs us to "cast our cares upon him, because he cares for us." This is a huge blessing that most of us don't take advantage of until we have exploded on someone or something.

If you will practice these three simple things it will relieve much of the stress in your life and bring your system back down to the proper pressure levels.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Taking the Hill

I knew when The Lord moved me from Borger that I was going to be stretched. That is exactly what I wanted. I didn't want to settle in, get comfortable, and turn stagnate. I wanted to experience new things, and see a true movement of God. I felt like a new recruit getting his first assignment. And what an assignment it has been.

When The Lord dropped us right in the middle of New Season Church, I felt like I was in a war zone. Spiritual bodies falling all around me, people hunkered down in their bunkers, and the C.O. yelling, "Move Forward! Move Forward!" So I strapped on my sword and started commanding my troops to take the hill of First Impressions, and the hill of Assimilation until the smoke finally cleared and we were stand on the top in celebration.

Through all the fighting and scraping for every piece of ground, we finally began to celebrate some victories in the camp. Some lives have been snatched from the enemy, P.O.W.'s have been rescued and restored to duty, new soldiers are being trained up, and the wounded are on the mend.

As I have a chance to catch my breath and assess the situation, I see several hills that still need to be taken: the hill of Service Programming, The hill of Discipleship, and the mountain of Missions. The difference is I don't feel like I'm taking direct fire. We have secured a com post from which we can assess and attack at will.

Believe it or not we are in a war and a fight for the souls of men. We can't lay down! We can't get comfortable! And God forbid, we ever retreat! We must be good soldiers for The Lord who has called us and saved our lives by his own heroics and grace when he took the hill of Calvary for you and me. May God be with you today as you fight the good fight and take the hill in front of you.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Urgency of Salvation

Last Wednesday night I started teaching through the book of Revelation at New Season Church in Hiram. The message was a simple one: Jesus is coming quickly which means the rapture of the Church is at hand. I felt an overwhelming pull from the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to all that were in attendance making sure that an invitation was given to come to Christ before he comes again.

I felt such freedom in message as we talked about those that God had appointed as watchmen throughout the centuries. Those that would herald the coming of The Lord because of the revelation they had received from God. We quickly came to the conclusion that it is our turn to herald the coming of The Lord because of the revelation that we have received in His Word.

As we finished and broke into our small groups, I encouraged the group to make sure all were secure in their relationship with Christ. I happen to look in the front of the room and one of the community group leaders was talking to another young man and I caught a tear in his eye. I have seen that look before. I knew that life changing decisions were being made. So, I just waited for the men to come to me. In a few moments they both walked over to me and they were both crying and the leader said, "Pastor Bill, say hello to your new brother in Christ." As we embraced with a congratulations, the man looked me in the I and said, "Thank you." These are some of the most humbling times in my life when I realize that God has used something I have said to change the course of a life forever.

God be praised that He is still saving people today. "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"